Approximately 9,250 square kilometers in total, of which only 3,350 of which are considered part of the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”, and to put its’ size in perspective, it is only about twenty percent of the size of the state of Connecticut – and yet the international implications of this small island are colossal. Not only is it an issue in regards to the peace, sovereignty, and unification of the island itself, it is also a constant point of discussion and concern for the European Union’s extension of rights and privileges to all Cypriots as EU members, it affects Turkey’s accession into the EU and therefore the global economy, and it also affects the economies and stability of their mother-fatherlands (Turkey and Greece) as well their alliances.
Cyprus’ accession into the European Union in 2004 was both welcomed and seen as a potentially detrimental change. Of course gaining membership into such an exclusive club is very telling of the success of a state and its’ government, especially in just a short forty-four years since its independence; however, leaving one-third of your population out of the equation because of a physical division between two inhabiting communities to discourage violence is also very telling. The unusually rapid acceptance was made in light of the fact that Cyprus had fulfilled all its’ requirements and there was no reason to reject them, except for the fact that a solution had not been reached between the two sides of the island, as well as in hopes that their approval as a member would further encourage a resolution. This hopeful thinking backfired when the Republic of Cyprus realized they were now in no hurry to reach a settlement that they would not be completely happy with, because the pressure had been lifted and they were ecstatic to have their new EU rights and privileges. Only the Turkish Cypriots suffered from this because the North region remains unrecognized internationally and therefore their EU rights and privileges are suspended until a solution is reached.
Turkey’s efforts for accession into the EU have also been hindered seriously as a result of Cyprus’ acceptance. Their intervention and interest on the island are blamed for their lengthy process in which Cyprus blocks eight of their thirty-five chapters for approval. They first applied for consideration in 1987; however, their negotiations did not begin until 1987 for a variety of reasons including: human rights violations, women’s rights, Cyprus, territorial water and the Aegean Sea debates with Greece, its’ location considered to be more Asia Minor than European, religion, population projection and its’ influence on representation in the EU, and domestic economic concerns. Freedoms also seem to be an issue, even though Turkey claims to be a democracy, in instances such as Article 301 and the banning of information sources (ie. YouTube). Furthermore, Turkey’s refusal to recognize the Republic of Cyprus contributes to the complexity of the process because you cannot become part of a ‘club’ of which you do not recognize one of its’ existing members. United States foreign relations with Turkey are among the strongest current international bonds and it goes without saying that the US is concerned not only with Turkey’s acceptance, but also with its fulfillment of the requirements necessary, so as to link the West with Europe for mutual benefits. Though the United States could benefit from better Turkish relations with Europe via Turkey’s membership, recent shifts in Turkey’s behavior suggest that they also deem their alliance with the Middle East to be very important. This could have enormous implications for the US, especially considering its current relations with countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan. This is clearly not an issue seen internationally on a spectrum. These ‘regional memberships’, if you will, are exclusive and very symbolic, as well as hold great global significance not only for a country, but also for its foreign relations and alliances.
Stay tuned for our last post which will report the results of this major election as well as the implications of victory.